Monday, May 29, 2017

2017 M3 Rock Festival Recap

Another M3 Music Festival has come and gone. Another great week in the Baltimore/Columbia area has ended. Another week with one of my best pals (Mr. Rob Rockitt) is over. Once again Rob and I were joined for the festival by the lovely ladies Christine Sixx and Dee Deadly. We did some drinking, we did some laughing, and we did a hell of a lot of head banging. As always I had an amazing time and I am already anxious to see what’s in store for next year’s M3, which will be the 10th one. Hopefully there is something special lined up for the tenth anniversary.

Here’s the highlights from this year’s festival.

The Atmosphere
The weather was hot. It was the second hottest M3 I had ever attended. The only one that was hotter was the first M3 I ever went to in 2010 and that’s because it was held in the middle of June.

Getting in was a little disorganized and chaotic on Friday afternoon. The lines to enter were long and it seemed that there wasn’t enough security and scanners to check people and scan their tickets. Thus, we missed the first band. It wasn’t a big deal to me, but it was surprising that after so many years there are still issues getting fans into the venue. The doors didn’t open to non-VIP members until after 3, so no one could go in early. M3 needs to figure out a better way to handle this in the future.

Being at the Merriweather Post Pavilion for 2 days meant that I was going to eat there at some point. Sadly, the food still isn’t as good as it used to be. The new hospitality company the venue uses is slow, disorganized, and lacking in quality. The cheesesteaks are still cheese-whizzed (as opposed to the good old days when it was real provolone cheese) and no lettuce or tomato was available. A slice of pizza was still ridiculously priced and the overall selection was lacking. Plenty of fried food if that’s what you wanted, but not much else.

Faster Pussycat Killed It With No Singer
There was concerning and sad news from Faster Pussycat the day before night one. They had to cancel a scheduled performance in Pittsburgh due to lead singer Taime Down being admitted to the hospital for bronchitis/pneumonia. There was no word on what that would do to the band’s Friday night performance at M3. So, when it was time for Faster Pussycat to come out for their performance, I had no idea what was going to happen. There had been no official cancellation from the band or from M3. I was wondering how was this band going to perform without a singer.

Well, when the time arrived, Faster Pussycat was introduced and I was scratching my head. If their singer is in the hospital, how are they going to perform? As an instrumental band? The band took the stage, explained the situation with Taime Down and told us that the band decided to push on anyway. They were going to have guest singers come out and they were going to take a chance singing as well. They opened with “Cathouse” and drummer Chad Stewart took care of the vocals and sounded decent. I was impressed. “Slip of the Tongue” followed, also sung by Stewart, and the band was well into their M3 performance.

Faster Pussycat tapped Jason McMaster of Dangerous Toys to sing their cover of “You’re So Vain” and Share Pederson from Vixen sang “House of Pain.” Then for the final two songs, Ted Poley of Danger Danger came to the stage. He announced to the crowd, “Welcome to Faster Polycat!” and the fans loved it. Ted is a high energy, fun loving guy, and it was a cool treat to see him sing with Faster Pussycat. He closed their set with “Bathroom Wall” and “Babylon.” And the fans gave Faster Pussycat a standing ovation.

So, while it sucked that Taime Down was in the hospital, it was incredible to see Faster Pussycat pull it off and give a grand performance in a pinch. It was also nice to see members of other bands pitch in and help Faster Pussycat out in their time of need. 

Loverboy Was A Terrible Choice
While they weren’t terrible, they were a terrible choice. Loverboy simply did not fit this bill. I enjoy a few of their songs, but Loverboy should be out with bands like REO Speedwagon and Styx, not the 80s hair metal era bands like Cinderella and KIX. I know there were fans who enjoyed their set and were genuinely happy that they got to see Loverboy in concert, but I was not one of them. I just kept thinking how there were so many other bands that could have gone on in that slot. I tried to get into their performance, but I don’t know their content save for the songs everyone knows. Hopefully this was a one year experiment and next year bands like Stryper or Extreme will take the slot right before KIX.

Rhino Bucket Kicked Ass
Rhino Bucket is a band that just does not get the credit they deserve. Their songs are fabulous, their live set is incredible, and they are a true grit rock and roll band. They’ve been bringing it since 1990 and I’ve been a huge fan since their self-titled debut. Their performance was at 11:30 AM on Saturday and they sounded like they were headlining the show. As lead singer Georg Dolivo put it, “This is real early for some, but really late for others.” I don’t know if that means he pulled an all-nighter, but I do know his voice was strong and solid. Rhino Bucket’s set was short but stunning. If the organizers at M3 are smart, they will give this band a better and longer slot at a future M3.

Junkyard Also Kicked Ass
I had never seen Junkyard prior to the Saturday M3 show. Growing up I was a huge fan of the band. I listened to their debut album endlessly and just thought they were one of the greatest bands around. To finally see them live in 2017 was a dream come true. They had just released a new album the week before and while I hadn’t had the chance to dive into it, what I heard was terrific. Junkyard performed on the “Forest Stage,” which was a new stage built in the wooded area of the Merriweather Post Pavilion. It is a beautiful stage that will be there permanently for future events held at the venue.

Prior to the concert, I told myself that I wanted to get as close to the stage as I could for Junkyard’s performance. Since the Forest Stage is in the woods and setup general admission style, whomever arrives first can get as close to the stage as they want. My dilemma was that Autograph was playing the main stage while Junkyard was starting their performance. I had to make a tough decision, which was to leave Autograph’s set early and miss their signature song “Turn Up the Radio.” It was worth it to me though, as I got to the Forest Stage and could stand about four rows away to watch Junkyard.

“Blooze,” “Hollywood,” and “Hands Off” were all performed from the debut album. A new song was played, which sounded great live, and other classic Junkyard tunes were unleashed on the fans. Junkyard sounded like they were still in 1989, which is to say, they sounded magnificent. Singer David Roach’s voice was impeccable and the rest of the band was crisp and tight. I may have waited 28 years to see the band live, but it was worth it! And if I get the chance to see them again, I will be there front and center.

Vain Stole The Show
Vain is another band that I had never seen live. They are a lesser known band from the late 80s hair metal era that I’ve always enjoyed. Their debut album, No Respect, was incredible and I listened to that a lot during my high school years. Over the years, Vain released other albums and I added most of them to my collection. They were solid records, but not quite as magnificent as their debut. And while I thoroughly enjoyed the band’s music, I never thought I would get to see them live. I didn’t see many tours from them and wasn’t even 100% sure that they were still together. When they were announced to be on this year’s M3 bill, I was delighted.

Vain played a mid-afternoon set and only had 30 minutes to work their magic. Singer Davy Vain mentioned that he likes to have a lot of fun, crack jokes, and mess with the band during their live sets. However, since they were on limited time, Vain had to let the music do the talking. And talk it did! “Secrets,” “Icy,” and “Beat the Bullet” were all played and sounded delightful. I was grateful that I finally got to witness this band in action. Their M3 performance has me hopeful that I will have the opportunity to see them again sometime soon.

Mitch Malloy Opened My Eyes
I honestly did not know who Mitch Malloy was prior to this event. Some people may scream that my Guru status needs to be revoked, and you could make an argument for that. However, I know who he is now and that’s the important thing. Christine had told me a few weeks before the concert that Malloy was magnificent and I needed to see his performance. So, when he came onstage, I made sure that I was in my seat. I am glad that I did. Mitch Malloy’s set was short but sweet and exceptional. Even though I didn’t know any of his songs, I enjoyed every moment of his performance. It was packed with high energy and a general gratefulness that he was there. Unlike some of the other bands on the bill, Malloy felt honored to be performing at the festival and it showed in his performance. I am certainly going to pay more attention to him and his music moving forward.

RATT Was An Expected Letdown
I wanted to enjoy RATT, but Stephen’s voice is gone – they tried to overcompensate by turning up the volume way too loud. After “Way Cool Jr.” was destroyed, I knew it was time to leave. I figured that RATT was going to be a train wreck and I know that plenty of fans stayed and loved their performance. I just don’t think RATT is that great live anymore. They fall in with Slaughter and Vince Neil as bands that should think about hanging it up, or change the way they do things. Stephen Pearcy doesn’t have the range he used to, but he still tries to have that range and that is his biggest downfall. They should think about reworking their material a little to fit Pearcy’s current range, ala Tom Keifer. Fans aren’t expecting you to hit the high notes, but they are expecting you to put on a professional performance. RATT just didn’t have it.

The Future of M3
M3 needs to get better headliners for future festivals. There are a lot of bands from the era out there that can headline with the best of them, and M3 needs to think about that. Queensryche are headliners. Def Leppard is out there. Poison is back together. The Scorpions. Twisted Sister. These bands are choice headliners. And yes, some of them have headlined the event before, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t, or shouldn’t do it again. And while I will most likely continue to go to the M3 festival if they continue to have it, a choice headliner will make me stay until the last note of the night.

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